If you’re following the media during these quarantine days of COVID-19, it’s obvious the search for a vaccine is the #1 priority. Why? The resources to develop a vaccine should have come after the hospitals, PPP, and everything else. The president wants a vaccine first, so that’s getting the pixels on our screens…a vaccine. And indeed most of the media coverage is about finding a vaccine. Is this what we should be spending most of our scientific time developing? Or are we missing another perhaps more important target? Treatment.
Vaccines don’t treat disease. They prevent disease. Even when there’s a vaccine, there are people who will need effective treatment. Treatments that work for COVID-19 are few and far between. Treatments don’t prevent, but how are we as a society going to deal with all the people who need help getting through and then past the disease?
Like most of us, I’ve been tracking the news about how many pharmaceutical companies are searching for a vaccine, I’ve also been reading how in many other places around the world, research is developing treatments. Vaccine research is hugely important. So is research to find effective treatments.
There are many very good reasons for this; First, it will take time to get the population vaccinated. Second, not all the population will want to be vaccinated. (Think anti-vaxxers and others who are fearful.) Because of this, there will still be people getting sick with COVID-19 and they will need treatment.
There are several promising treatments and many more duds. Think hydroxychloroquine. Voodoo witch doctors tout it, science, evidence-based science, debunks it. One truly promising treatment is remdesivir, an anti-viral drug that is undergoing clinical trials to see if it’s a good treatment for MERS, SARS and COVID-19, all coronaviruses.
What Else is There?
Then there’s THC, CBD, and terpenes. Yes, you read correctly; Cannabis might be a treatment. Specifically, CBD might be a link to the endocannabinoid system that alleviates symptoms, especially the pulmonary issues caused by the cytokine storm that COVID-19 seems to trigger. That “storm” is caused by an overreaction by our own immune system to what it thinks is invading our bodies. THC might be a treatment in other ways as it works with the endocannabinoid system in a different way than CBD. Cannabis terpenes also are part of this system. We’re slowly finding out that we have a whole system in our bodies that we know little about, but our ancestors probably understood on their level. It might not have been scientific, but they certainly knew something was there.
Yes, one or several vaccines are needed to prevent COVID-19 in a large part of the population. But vaccines won’t help everyone. We also need treatments. Probably lots of treatments because COVID-19 has shown itself to be a bit of a chimera. It changes in every person who is infected and shows symptoms. Some of those afflicted only have a fever and very low energy…a fever and low energy that can last for weeks or months, it seems. At the far end, and it’s not that uncommon, our bodies produce a cytokine storm that moves to our lungs and can kill us. That’s when ventilators come in. But ventilators aren’t treatment, they are palliative. They ease the pulmonary issue, but they don’t alleviate it.
Maybe we need to get cannabis removed from Schedule 1. If it’s removed, medical science can work on a lot of treatments that would involve parts of cannabis.